Archive for the ‘self-sufficiency’ Tag

Changing It Up For Real

Rather than emigrating to Canada or some other country when the candidate you don’t want wins anyway, consider a more radical change. Why not remain in your native land, but opt out of as many systems, expectations, structures, economies, etc. as possible that exist for others’ benefit but perhaps not yours?

Harder, you say? Less practical? I’m far less interested in the malcontent who talks of relocating to Canada and much more engaged by anyone who actually makes a change with less talk and more action.

Consider Yury …

What would it actually require to do what he’s done?

Of course, in the scant two plus minutes of the video, we don’t get anything like a clear picture of Yury’s resources and choices. We do get a romanticized picture of independence and self-reliance. What else has Yury opted to do without, in order to make his change?

Like Thoreau’s accounting of his expenses early on in Walden, let’s suss out a rough estimate of what a comparable transformation would require while remaining in the States. Readers who live in other countries know better than I how to translate expenses and possibilities to their own circumstances.

We learn Yury opted out of a professional life as a lawyer five years back. Presumably unlike many law students in the States, he doesn’t have massive loans to repay. Probably he was even able to save a modest amount in order to launch himself into his new life.

Sixty miles outside of Moscow, he’s obviously rural. How much land does he own? Does he raise most of his own food? How near is the nearest town? Can he walk to a general store or market for things he can’t grow? Solar panels on the roof power lights and a computer, but not much else. He apparently cooks and heats with wood. We’re told a generator tides him over for the few months each year when the sun isn’t enough.

How does he wash clothes? Is he still covered by a state health care system, or has he opted out of that too, living as most of humanity has until the last few generations? No car? Public transport nearby — even a bus — would definitely help.


I’m going to use Maine as a starting point, because land taxes are quite high in Vermont where I live. In New Hampshire, there’s no income tax, but various other taxes take a larger bite. Live in a scenic NH area with appealing vistas and you pay a “view tax”. Maine has fewer services, but someone like Yury isn’t looking for such things anyway.

So here’s my accounting:

1 — Property: .5 to 5 acres of land (I used Maine Listings): $3-10,000.

With careful shopping, the land may come with a well and/or septic in place. Composting toilets and rain collection systems can provide other options. A few miles from a town of a few thousand people will generally give you reasonable access to supplies, at least during the summer months, when hiking or biking with backpacks is relatively easy. A friendly neighbor you trade with — occasional transport to and from town in exchange for vegetables, firewood, yard work, etc. — can also make such an arrangement more doable.

Rental or leasing would allow for less expensive options for property and for the next item — taxes.

2 — Annual taxes: $100-1000

This depends of course on many variables — property size, township, distance from town, structures in place and added, etc. If you’re supporting yourself with any sort of service or product — eggs, firewood, craft items, seasonal labor — the figure rises.

3 — House/other structure(s): $1000-10,000+

Yury’s underground house is straw, clay and wood, with some sort of insulating and waterproofing membrane. Building aboveground lets more light in, alleviates many waterproofing issues, but increases heating needs. Earth-berming is a powerful compromise — imagine a house with only south-facing windows — all other sides are bermed. A sod roof of a foot or more of earth is cheap and effective insulation.

Earthwood Building School run by Rob and Jaki Roy in West Chazy in northern New York has links and images to give you a range of ideas. (Rob, here’s some free advertising!) What you’re willing to do for yourself, and your minimum requirements, your “without-which-not” list, can shift the price quite dramatically up or down. Sweat equity also makes an immense difference here. Do you need perfect, or serviceable?

Add to this a chicken coop, wood storage, gardening equipment, perennial plantings as needed, etc.


4 — Annual living expenses: $2000-10,000+

Ivan McBeth, whom I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, lived with his wife Fearn for many years until his passing last year on about $8000 a year on their 40-acre property in northern Vermont. Much of his income derived from running Druidry workshops and building megalithic structures on site for clients.

Again, it might be possible to pare the lower end of that $2000 still further, especially with barter. Everyone has their necessities.

5 — “Future Fund”: ?

If you plan at all for the future, old age, emergencies, or a desire to change your life once again after a 1, 5 or 20 year experiment, a modest nest egg of any amount can help smooth the way.

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deltadepartOr you decide instead to relocate to another country.  More expensive, very likely. Learning another language, living in a different climate, with different lifestyles, social norms, history, national trajectory and attitudes towards foreigners, and Americans in particular, will all play their part in your experience.

So does any of this whet your appetite, or discourage you?

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Images: earth shelters; airplane.

Thirty Days of Druidry 25: Changes, Gods, Relationships

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[Talach is the Druid name of a member of the Order of the Green Companions. Because of his support for this blog and its reaching 300 posts today, this guest post is an opportunity for him to share insight on an interesting situation presented to him. We have permission from the person identified below as M. to print this email exchange, with minimal editing to protect privacy.]

Dear Talach,

National-atlas-coloradoWhen you spoke after our Beltane ritual about ritual and non-ritual realities, I felt you might understand this problem I’m struggling with and maybe help. My partner and I are both Pagans, I’m a Druid and he’s pretty definitely a solitary Witch, so he doesn’t come to our gatherings. That’s fine. Recently we’ve been talking a lot and fighting a lot about the gods. He’s had some profound experiences with the Lord and Lady and as a result of their guidance he says he wants to make some BIG changes in our life together. Move out of state, off the grid, become self-sufficient, open our relationship, begin teaching and accepting students, etc. etc. There’s a group in Colorado he’s been talking with and he’s pretty focused on them. He met a couple members at a festival last summer.

I love this man, but and it’s a MAJOR but, I haven’t got any confirmation of this even after several months of divination and meditation and ritual. We’ve had some major blow-ups during this time. Part of our fighting comes because he says I don’t work with the gods because I don’t believe in them. He’s right about that last part. I don’t believe. All honor to Brighid and Lugh and the goddess at rituals and as forms of power to work with. But I’ve never experienced them as REAL outside of rituals. I want to hold on to this person and relationship if we can make it work. But my partner wants to make these changes NOW, at the latest definitely before midsummer. Where do we go from here?


Dear M.,

Thanks for your note. You’re dealing several challenges here. Your partner wants changes you’re clearly not sure about. You’re facing a deadline. And part of the decision has been made to hinge on your awareness of the gods who speak to your partner about these changes but not to you.

What’s the most important issue here? It sounds like for you it’s your relationship. Is that true for your partner, too? What’s between you and the gods, or whether life is better somewhere else than where you are, are separate things to consider. You don’t say anything about jobs or housing or other assets, which are a big factor for you yourself, here and now, not just in Colorado or other place you or he may go, alone or with a partner.

So you can ask yourself a hard question, M., and if you do, be ready for the answer: is your relationship important enough for both of you to make it the center of any decision? This is separate from the gods or any deadline. If you and your partner can’t agree on that, you need to work through that, apart from Colorado or your openness to divine guidance. If you’re still both committed to each other and you both have some flexibility, could you try out the Colorado possibility for just a few months to see how it might fit you both?

gardeningOf course you may not be able to just pick up and leave. Your partner is asking for many changes, not just one, and with a deadline. Why the rush? Why midsummer? If it’s just to get a big garden going, can you do that where you already are? Try becoming more self-sufficient now, apart from the Colorado decision. If neither of you have spent much time growing and preserving your own food, that’s also something to try out close to home first, if you can. That’s a big enough change by itself. Pots and window boxes can help you grow a fair bit even if you don’t have much or any garden space. I urge smaller steps if you can, to make any changes easier to look at and consider and work with one by one.

Blessings to you both, M.


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IMAGES: Colorado map; gardening.

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